Cinema, Supernatural Archaeology, and the Hidden Human Past

in Numen
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?



Close analysis of modern movies reveals — yet archaeologists and historians have failed to understand — that the dominant representation of archaeological research and ancient human culture in mainstream cinema involves explorations of supernatural objects and events. Cinematic archaeology tends to be mythic rather than realistic in focus. Movies frequently present images of the human past that are pseudoarchaeological in the sense that these films tell the same stories as ‘alternative archaeology,’ even though they may not make an explicit claim to the truthfulness of the events depicted. This pattern is documented through a review of films employing the ancient astronaut model in which visiting aliens changed human development in the past, and through an examination of the work of writer/director Roland Emmerich who has specialized in those films. The cinematic history of these narratives is long, demonstrating that cinema does not merely reproduce popular pseudoarchaeological research, it has also contributed to the growth of these stories.

Cinema, Supernatural Archaeology, and the Hidden Human Past

in Numen



AronsteinS. “Not Exactly a Knight: Arthurian Narrative and Recuperative Politics in the ‘Indiana Jones’ Trilogy” Cinema Journal 1995 34 3 30

ChildressDavidMehlerStephen S. The Crystal Skulls: Astonishing Portals to Man’s Past 2008 New York Adventures Unlimited Press

ColeJ.R. “Cult Archaeology and Unscientific Method and Theory” Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 1980 3 1 33

CombsR. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” Monthly Film Bulletin 1981 48 159 160

CoppensPhillipvon DänikenErich The Ancient Alien Question: A New Inquiry Into the Existence Evidence and Influence of Ancient Visitors 2011 New York New Page Books

EpsteinEdward Jay The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood 2006 New York Random House

FaganGarrett G. FaganGarrett G. “Diagnosing Pseudoarchaeology” Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public 2006a Abingdon Routledge 23 46

FaganGarrett G. Archaeological Fantasies: How Pseudoarchaeology Misrepresents the Past and Misleads the Public 2006b Abingdon Routledge

FaganGarrett G.FederK.L. “Crusading Against Straw Men: An Alternative View of Alternative Archaeologies: Response to Holtorf (2005)” World Archaeology 2006 38 718 729

FarrellJoseph P. Genes Giants Monsters and Men: The Surviving Elites of the Cosmic War and Their Hidden Agenda 2011 Feral House

FederKenneth Frauds Myths and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology 2010 7th edition New York McGraw-Hill

GrayT. HarroldF.EveR. “Educational Experience and Belief in Paranormal Phenomena” Cult Archaeology and Creationism: Understanding Pseudoscientific Beliefs about the Past 1987 Iowa City University of Iowa Press 21 33

GreshLois H.WeinbergRobert Why did it have to be snakes? From Science to the Supernatural the Many Mysteries of Indiana Jones 2008 New Jersey John Wiley and Sons

HallM.A. “Romancing the Stones: Archaeology in Popular Cinema” European Journal of Archaeology 2004 7 159 176

HancockGraham Online introduction to Underworld: from Fingerprints of the Gods to Underworld 2002 Accessed 2.10.2011

HarroldFrancis B.EveRaymond A. Cult Archaeology and Creationism 1995 Iowa City University of Iowa Press

HiscockPeter “The New Age of Alternative Archaeology of Australia” Archaeology in Oceania 1996 31 152 164

HiscockPeter “Book Review: Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past by Julie Schablitsky” Australian Archaeology 2008 66 75 6

HiscockPeter LemaitreS.SchallC. “Archaeology Threatens the World! Representations of Archaeologists in Cinema” How do the Media Represent Archaeology What Is at Stake? 2009 Bruxelles Kineon 71 79

HoltorfCornelius “Beyond Crusades: How (Not) to Engage with Alternative Archaeologies” World Archaeology 2005 37 544 551

HoltorfCornelius Archaeology Is a Brand: The Meaning of Archaeology in Contemporary Popular Culture 2007 Walnut Creek Left Coast Press

HoltorfCornelius “Welcome Back, Indy” New Scientist 2008 2656 20

KolosimoPeter Non è terrestre 1968 Milan Arnoldo Mondatori Editore (Translated 1973 as Not of This World Bantam Books.)

KreisbergGlenn Lost Knowledge of the Ancients: A Graham Hancock Reader 2010 New York Bear and Company

LowellPercival Mars and Its Canals 1895

LubbockJ. Pre-historic Times: As Illustrated by Ancient Remains and the Manner and Customs of Modern Savages 1872 New York Appleton

MortonChrisThomasCeri Louise The Mystery of the Crystal Skulls: Unlocking the Secrets of the Past Present and Future 2002 New York Bear and Company

NobleV.E. SchalitskyJ. “When the legend becomes fact. Reconciling Hollywood realism and archaeological realities” Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past 2007 Walnut Creek, California Left Coast Press 223 244

PeetPreston Underground!: The Disinformation Guide to Ancient Civilizations Astonishing Archaeology and Hidden History 2005 New York Disinformation

RosenstoneRobert A. History on Film/Film on History 2006 New York Longman

SchablitskyJulie M. Box Office Archaeology: Refining Hollywood’s Portrayals of the Past 2007 Walnut Creek, California Left Coast Press

ShohatE. StamR.MillerT. “Gender and Culture of Empire: Towards a Feminist Ethnography of the Cinema” Film and Theory: An Anthology 2000 Oxford Blackwell 669 696

von DänikenE. Chariots of the Gods 1968 New York Putnam

von DänikenE. History Is Wrong 2009 New York New Page Books

Webb-De SistoMarion Crystal Skulls: Emissaries of Healing and Sacred Wisdom 2002 Xlibris

WellsH.G. War of the Worlds 1898 London Heinemann

WhittleC.H. “Development of Beliefs in Paranormal and Supernatural Phenomena” Skeptical Inquirer 2004 28 2 43 45 55


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 60 60 27
Full Text Views 25 25 11
PDF Downloads 4 4 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0